More Officers, More Former Defendants in Police ‘Code of Silence' Scandal

"I absolutely believe that this is unlike any other scandal that I’ve ever witnessed," Defense Attorney Joshua Tepfer said. "I believe it encapsulates the code of silence like nothing I’ve ever seen."

A growing scandal associated with a former Chicago police tactical team accused of shaking down drug dealers and framing south side residents now includes scrutiny of at least 15 active Chicago police officers.

NBC 5 Investigates has learned the 15 officers are now assigned to desk duty, in a case which has already seen the convictions of 20 individuals overturned.

Last November, on a single day, Cook County prosecutors threw out the convictions of over a dozen men who had been arrested by Sgt. Ronald Watts and his team at the former Ida B. Wells housing project. All contended they were framed, and prosecutors did not disagree.

“In good conscience we could not let these convictions stand,” Mark Rotert, the chief of the State’s Attorney’s Conviction Integrity Unit said that day. “In these cases we concluded, unfortunately, that police were not being truthful, and we couldn’t have confidence in the integrity of their testimony.”

At that time, Chicago police acknowledged that seven officers had been relieved of street duty.

The newest revelations come in the case of a man named Lionel White, who saw his case overturned in December of 2016. Answering questions in a federal suit stemming from that case, a lawyer for the City of Chicago identified 15 officers pulled from the street as a direct result of the State’s Attorney’s mass exoneration action last November.

Another man who says he was framed by Watt’s crew, Anthony McDaniels, has a petition pending before the Conviction Integrity Unit. As part of that case, attorney Joshua Tepfer filed a motion Friday, identifying 23 more individuals who say they also were set up by Watts or officers under his command.

“Watts and his tactical team officers falsely arrested them, framed them, and falsified their police reports,” Attorney Joshua Tepfer wrote. “The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Conviction Integrity Unit is currently reviewing each of these matters.”

A hearing on McDaniels’ case is set for Wednesday.

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